Crew Q&A: Give 'Em Props

Editor’s Note: We culled your questions from Facebook and Twitter for this week’s Q&A with Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency crew members. This week it’s Assistant Prop Masters Lila McKinlay, David Lewis, and Tina Rahn.

1. Noémie L. via Facebook: What is the weirdest prop you had to create/find for the show?

Dave Lewis: Allo Noemie! I would have to say the taxidermy/stuffy animals we need to find for a certain episodes as these animals were dead in the scene. I know it sounds a little morbid but we go by the script and need to make our art look as real as possible.

Tina Rahm: Tough question, they all have their oddities about them.

2. Susan C. via Facebook: What Was the most problematic prop used on set? I love your show, would love to own the video series!

Lila McKinlay: Actually, the ticket was somewhat problematic in that everyone had a different idea on how the blood should be splattered on it. It was funny — at one point I actually had EP Max Landis, Director Dean Parisot, and EP Arvind Ethan David all giving their bloody tips. 

DL: Hi Susan. Personally I would have to say Rimmer’s (played by Aaron Douglas) glasses.They were a vintage pair of glasses from the '80s and the lenses kept popping out during his performance. A lot of glue and cussing were involved with this prop.

TR: Thanks Susan. I am so happy to hear you love the show! It was a fun show to be on and challenging at the same time. The crossbows. They are very heavy and breakable! Another thing was our chair cart for video village. Because we shot in difficult areas, the tires constantly needed to be replaced.

3. Kyle S. via Twitter: How much planning goes into the customized props like the newspaper? Do you have to write real copy for it or is it all 'lorem ipsum'?

LM: Into every prop, there goes a great deal of planning. We want to create a cohesive feel for an entire look of the show, so each step is calculated and considered and goes through many creative hands and brains to turn it into a finished prop.

DL: Hey Kyle. In terms of props like a newspaper, our friends in the art department take care of that. More specifically the art directors. And yes, the majority is in “lorem ipsum,” but anything the camera focuses on such as the cover or insert pages (close-ups) are totally legit and this is where these artists work their magic with their creativity and imagination.When it’s all approved and printed out they hand it over to me — “the on set guy” — to babysit and pass on to our cast member.

4. @mindpalaces via Twitter: what is up with the squeaky toy clown?

LM: Isn't it just great, weird, and kind of creepy!? That's basically what we were going for. You'd be surprised how much talk there was about that little dude.

5. @AF_ElijahWood via Twitter: Was that a real grand piano? Note connection here

LMIndeed it was!

DL: Yes, that was in fact a real piano. The production purchased  two: one to smash for the aftermath scene, and another for a future scene.

6. @cloysterbell via Twitter: Which show prop do you think defines each character best? #DirkGently

LM: Let's go with the Rowdy 3 for this one. Their weapons best described them, and we used both rubbers and real weapons. The rubbers were so well-made that they were often mistaken for the real ones.

DL: Kyle It would be difficult trying to say without revealing too much of the show… No spoilers.

7. @Strxngrthins via Twitter: how heartbreaking was it to break a guitar (they're v expensive)

LM: That was hard for all of us to anticipate and watch. Elijah can actually play some guitar and practiced with the guitar we supplied. It was very sad to watch any instrument get smashed, but it also showed how at-the-end-of-his-ropes Todd felt to go to those lengths with a possession he had obviously cherished and used for years.

DL: It was heartbreaking, but on that day, that was my job…Would have been more painful if I actually had to pay for it.

TR: Very heartbreaking, especially for a co-worker of ours on the team as he is a huge musician.

8. ‏@incredilester via Twitter: how many different guitars do you have?

LM: We had 3 in total — brand new ones were purchased and then "aged" for the show.

9. @GiaFoxxDay via Twitter: what's the favorite prop? Either to make or to use.

LM: Personally, it was the badass crossbow.

DL: I would say a prop guitar idea I came up with for a bludgeoning scene later on in the season. Now I think I’ve already said too much.

TR: Weapons. Something I loved to go get was all the weapons we used. It was nice to have such a large variety. And I personally love making the food. Though it can be finicky, I love how you can make food look so beautiful.

10. @katsterevin via Twitter: If someone does a good job, is it required for coworkers to 'give them props'?

LM: We are always giving each other Mad Props!

DL: Kat, absolutely, especially when it is prop-related, Everyone deserves a pat on the back when it is deserved, but still a pretty cheesy thing to say to a props person… lol

TR: Always. Team morale is a huge thing on set. We are with each other for up to 19 hrs a day so when someone does a good job or we do a good job as a team we always celebrate or “give props!”

11. @nataliefisher via Twitter: does the cars count as props? How many takes did they have to wreck Todd's, and was Sam really driving?

LM: In Props, we supply the license plates for cars. Transport takes care of the cars themselves, but the hammer that was used to destroy the car was a prop. We took several takes. The scene of the car being smashed was actually our first shot on our first day of shooting. We all cheered after the first take because it was one heck of a way to start a show! Our crew sure made an impression on that neighborhood!

DL: Natalie, the car doesn’t really count as a prop. The definition of a prop is something the actor can pick up and walk away with. But we do make sure the car has the correct plates on it depending where we are in the scene geographically. We had two cars  — one for driving — and one for smashing, and our photo double was doing most of the driving.

TR: I was there for those scenes with Sam. The parts were he is talking in the car, he is being towed, otherwise he is driving. Those days for filming were a lot of fun and one of my favorite days of shooting.

12. @NoelWillett via Twitter: Is there a separate department for the props the kitten uses?

LM: We supply the props for the animals too, whether it be a drinking bowl, leach, collar etc. The corgi even had his own stand-in stuffed corgi, which got a lot of laughs from the whole crew. Only a face a mother could love. One of our Props people actually kept one of the sweet black kittens at the end of the shoot. We all loved having animals on set.

DL: Noel, animals on screen are considered actors and we do give them props such as collars, toys, a food dish etc. We usually have a stuffed toy version of the animal for standing in so we can aide the lighting process.

TR: We had real kittens and then a stuffed kitten for some particular scenes — as well as for the corgi — so we didn’t hurt any animals in the making of the show. We would have an animal wrangler on set that we work with when we would have the live animals on set. One of the best parts of the job! One of our crew ended up adopting one of the kittens at the end of the show. The corgi was a lot of fun to work with as he was always up for playing! We would have leashes and toys for them.